Martin Brothers Wally bird
This Martinware ‘Wally’ bird admiring himself in a Tiffany mirror is one of eight avian creations by the artist potters being offered at Heritage Auctions on November 18. It is 13.25in (34cm) high, is signed along the base and head ‘Martin Bros. London + Southall, 9-1898’ and carries an estimate of $30,000-40,000.

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Collections like that formed by California’s Allen Harriman and Edward Judd (dispersed at a benchmark auction by Sotheby’s in 2001) testify to the keenness of those collectors across the Atlantic.

For all Martinware enthusiasts, the collecting zenith is one of the brothers’ ‘Wally’ birds, jars with removable heads which are really clay caricatures of people in Victorian London.

Martin Brothers bird group

A Martinware triple-bird group with two smaller characters flanking a larger central figure. It is signed ‘R.W. Martin Bros. London + Southall, 27.2.190’, glazed in cobalt, stands 7¾in (17cm) high and is guided at $20,000-30,000 in the Heritage Auctions sale on November 18.

Texas auction house Heritage will have no fewer than eight birds from two different US collections to disperse in its 20th century design sale on November 18. This is the second substantial group of avian creations to be offered in the US within the year following Phillips’ sale in New York of a British-formed Martinware collection in December 2015.

Martin Brothers bird jar and cover

A Martin Brothers bird jar and cover wearing a green-brimmed hat signed along base and lid ‘R.W. Martin & Brothers, London & Southall, 12.1888’. It stands 11.75in (30cm) high and is glazed in tan, greens and blues. It is estimated at $20,000 - $30,000 in the Heritage Auctions sale on November 18.

Six of the Heritage birds come from one local collector who acquired them around a decade ago. The other two, plus three other pieces of Martinware, have been in the same West Coast collection for around 30 years.

While the birds are the most expensive of the Martinware categories, other examples of their creations are rising in price and popularity. The sale also includes one of their distinctive double- faced jugs dated 1911 which carries an estimate of $2500-3500.

Martin Brothers bird jar and cover

A 14in (35.5cm) high Martin Brothers long-beaked bird jar and cover with exaggerated beak, engraved to base, cover, and flange ‘R.W. Martin & Brothers, Southall + London, 6.1884’ estimate: $25,000-35,000 in the Heritage Auctions sale on November 18.

For more information on Martin Brothers, please see ATG’s collecting guide.